By Douglas V. Gibbs
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host

I suppose I’ve always kind of been somewhat of a romantic.  But, romance takes money, and I’m usually not swimming in cash.  Five years ago I injured my back, neck, and right shoulder in a hit and run incident on a job site while I was delivering road base in a sand and gravel truck (a “transfer” for those of you familiar with the industry).  I received time off work to heal, but the injuries were severe enough that they knocked me out of being able to work doing the kinds of jobs that had dominated my adult-life (truck driving and construction).  Unfortunately, the very skillful lawyers representing the company I worked for at the time of the accident made a very convincing argument that I was full of lies, and that my injuries were an attempt to commit fraud against the Worker’s Compensation system.  Since then I have been unable to work a day job for an employer, I face certain limitations daily due to the chronic pain I have had since the accident, and the challenges have been piling up in ways that I could not even explain.  I currently live without health insurance, or a reasonable income. Therefore, my income now comes from what used to essentially be a hobby . . . my constitution classes, books, and speaking engagements.

My wife works a lot of overtime since my hobby becoming my job has dropped our income significantly.  I teach one hour constitution classes a couple times per week, I teach homeschool students government (or economics, depending on which semester we are in) one day per week for about an hour and a half, I am a public speaker, a radio host on Saturdays (broadcasting nearly all of my shows from my home office, through a connection to the radio station, since driving each week has become more physically difficult and expensive), and I write books.  Fortunately, the last book, 7 Worst Constitutional Liars, and a few other blessed circumstances, did enough for me in 2018 that for the first time since my injuries I made more money than I spent.

That’s right, my constitution efforts have been in the red for a number of years, but last year we did well enough to show some profit.  As a result, I set aside some of that money and decided to surprise my wife for Valentine’s Day.

Last Thursday Night (February 14, Valentine’s Day) I was scheduled to be a speaker at the Banning-Beaumont-Cherry Valley Tea Party‘s monthly dinner meeting (second Thursday of each month), and I convinced my wife to spend the Valentine’s Day dinner with me at that event.  I usually make a hundred bucks, or so, at that event, so not being one to stand in my way to make a little money, she agreed.

Knowing that a massive rainstorm was coming, and also wanting to get away from the noise of life, I told her that we would be staying at Casino Morongo’s hotel (located in Cabazon, which is about an eleven minute drive from the Farms’ House Restaurant in Banning, the location of the Tea Party’s event) on Wednesday and Thursday Night.  Between the money I have made recently, and the money I would likely make at the Tea Party meeting, I explained to her, there should be enough to get away and just relax in the hotel room.

Considering that when I got injured, to help us pay the mortgage on our house, my son, his wife, and their three children moved into our house with us, and the grandkids (God Bless Them) are a noisy bunch, the time away was good news for her to hear.  She was all in.

However, she worked on Wednesday, and would not get off of work until 9:30 pm, so we would be checking in late on our first night.

Which was exactly as I wanted it.

After finishing class with my homeschool group Wednesday afternoon, I cancelled the Wednesday Night Constitution Class in Temecula.  Then, I went up to Cabazon to check-in, and prepare the room.  The trip up, which took a bit more than its usual hour, consisted of hammering rain, gusty winds, and to say the least, the trip was harrowing.  I passed a few accidents, and blazing lights and sirens were the norm, rather than the rare exception.

The drive up there, if I wish to keep the actually miles driven to a minimum, consists of quite a few back-roads, and very little freeway driving.  The 215 freeway to the 60 or the 10 are huge loops, and the more direct route is up Winchester Road from Temecula through Hemet, a quick jaunt along Domenigoni Parkway, Warren, and across Ramona Expressway to Sanderson Avenue, which leads to a stretch of treacherous and zig-zagging highway through an area of the “badlands” called “Lamb’s Canyon.”

The road through the canyon between San Jacinto and Beaumont requires careful driving as it is, but with heavy rain (coming down so hard it was in buckets rather than drops), the trip was difficult.  Visibility was very limited, yet as I slowly worked my way through the treacherous conditions, smaller kid-cars flew by me without a care in the world.

Once to the top, I hit a few stores to pick up roses, a couple bottles of wine, various candies (her favorites, Hershey bars with almonds and a large flat of Ferrero Rocher candies, along with an assortment of heart shaped stuff).  I already had some little plastic heart emojis to spread across the room, and an endearing card with a message I knew would make her melt, from the day before.

When I got to the hotel the rain was even heavier than before.  I parked, braved the rain, and checked in.  I explained to the lady at the counter what I wanted to do, and that if I didn’t have help, or some kind of cart on wheels, it would take multiple trips between the room and my car.  Plus, thanks to the weather, and a phone call earlier I had to make to my credit union, I was pressed for time.

She smiled, and told a young man about my predicament.  “Do you have your valet parking receipt?” he asked.

“No, I’m in the casino lot.”

“Oh,” he said.  “If you are staying in the hotel, valet parking is complimentary, as is my assistance.  We are here to serve you.  Tell you what, get your car, and I will meet you in the valet area.”

The rain lightened up as I walked to my car, but it suddenly became a vicious downpour as I got in line for the valet.  The gentleman met me with a cart.  We loaded everything on the cart for a single trip to the room, off we went.  The roses had beads of water on them that actually made them look better.  Everything else was in thick grocery bags, and he positioned them in such a way that the insides were protected from the rain.

18 floors later, we arrived at my room, he helped me unload, I gave him a tip, and I went to work.  I was wishing I could take a nap afterward.  It was more work than I had expected, and my back was screaming for mercy.

Then, after I got back to my car, which they left nearby at the valet since I told them I would be less than twenty minutes, I braved the rainy storm down the hill to retrieve my wife.

The rain came down even harder.  The sky darkened.  I had to slow down quite a bit just to assure myself I was going to live during this part of my back and forth journey.

As I drove down the hill, she called me to tell me she had gotten off work early. The timing was not good, for I had pushed my time allotment, and was going to arrive at 9:30 pm as originally told she would be off work.  However, due to the rain, and a reduction in the number of customers, she expected to be off work at around 9:00 pm. 

Fortunately, she did not have to spend the half hour in the rain.  She instead spent the time chatting with co-workers in the employee lounge.

My wife is a very serious individual, and when we arrived at Casino Morongo she was a little bothered with me when I took the lead ahead of her, and then struck a path along the casino floor that did not point towards the hotel registration desk.  “Doug,” she called to me, “where are you going?  Check-in is over there.”

I ignored her, just as I did in the car when she asked during the trip up the road, “What did you do all day?”

“Doug?  Doug?”

I picked up the pace, and she said less as she began to concentrate on just keeping up.  I had my bag and computer firmly clutched in my hands, she carried her bag and a couple items on hangers, and as I approached the hotel entrance on the far side of the casino floor I showed the security guard my key for entry in such a way that my body blocked her view.

“Where are you going, Doug!”

I hit the elevator button, and luckily a door opened rapidly.  With not enough time to protest, nor tell the guard her husband was either lost, or crazy, she entered the elevator with me, and I punched the button for floor 18.

Then, we approached the room.  Still confused, she asked, “what are you doing?  How is it that you have that key?”

I slipped the card key home.  “This,” I said, smiling, “is how.”

The door opened, and before her on the bed, the desk, and a mantle near the window were two dozen roses in two vases (a dozen in each), one pink, the other red, plastic red heart-shaped emojis all over the place (two dozen), the candies, the wine (with glasses), and so forth.

“This,” I finally answered her question, “is what I did all day.”

Then, contrary to her usual vacation mode during which she normally keeps us so busy I need a vacation from my vacation afterward, we relaxed, and did just about nothing but watch television, play backgammon, and play other games with each other.

Afterward, she complimented me on the whole two night affair, and was regretting having to return to work on Friday, or go home to the noisy hustle and bustle of our life.

I used to do things like this a lot back when we were younger, but my income was greater back then, than it is, now.  One thing I can say about romance … it ain’t cheap.  But, this expense was well worth it.  Best Valentine’s Day we’ve had in a long time.

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